Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Showstopper

My reaction after eating one bite of today’s showstopping recipe: “Damn, Daphna!” My cooking co-conspirator knows what to do with a stick of butter. That’s for damn sure.

My good friend and fellow foodie, Ms. Daphna, is a frequent contributor to the comments section of Life, Love, and Food. I thought it high time she gave us a recipe (or two—she’s an overachiever). Lucky for us, she obliged. And in the spirit of keeping love at the center of everything around here, she spins a little tale of romance around two of her most belly-pleasing recipes, Roasted Vegetable Lasagna and her signature Garlic Bread. Since it’s a bit warm around Chicago these days, I haven’t tried Daphna’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna yet, but her skills in the kitchen are impeccable. I trust that you and I, dear reader, are in good hands when lasagna-weather rolls around again. (Which in Chicago might be, um, tomorrow. The seasons are fickle and disobedient around here.)

The Garlic Bread, however, is unbelievably delicious. Daphna may sound like she’s exaggerating in her description of it, but she’s really not. When she made her bread for the two of us and her husband, we three polished off the whole batch. No sweat. And we would have eaten more had there been more to eat. Damn, Daphna! No wonder she’s married and I’m not. [Note to self: Keep extra butter and garlic on hand for romance emergencies. Use as needed.]

Single, married, or somewhere in between, Daphna’s recipes will increase your domestic bliss. Thank you for sharing them with us, D, and thanks for being my friend. You are great.

* * *

Daphna writes:

Veggie lasagna, you hold a special place in my heart. (And meat lasagna, you’re not bad either). You’re delicious and comforting, yet also versatile, dependable, and wholesome. Effortlessly frozen and reheated and at home on paper plates or fine china, you’re the boyfriend who gives you sexy smooches during dessert and then cleans up your kitchen. On the eve of my first wedding anniversary—literally, it’s tomorrow—I must give a celebratory nod to everything that is both good for you and. . . just plain good.

I’ve tried many permutations of veggie lasagna using different types of vegetables and homemade sauces, and this is one of my favorites. Lately I’ve been using jarred sauces (Classico or Newman’s Own are great); however a homemade marinara sauce would also be delicious.

But the real star of the show is the garlic bread, which we tend to reserve for company. This recipe is crazy good, and I mean full-on, lock-down psych ward crazy (sorry, said husband is currently doing a psychiatry rotation). Oddly, cheap French baguettes from the regular grocery store tend to yield better results than expensive artisan loaves. After making the spread, I use two baking steps—first a lower temperature to melt the butter and crisp the bread and then a higher temperature to turn the bread a scrumptious, caramelized golden brown. My usage of this technique, as well as salted butter, is gleaned from The Pioneer Woman’s recommendations in her Buttery Thyme Bread recipe.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Adapted from allrecipes.com

For roasting:

1 small to medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into quarter-inch rounds
2 medium zucchini, cut horizontally into quarter-inch slices
1 large red pepper, cut into strips
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced thickly
Olive oil (I used Boyajian’s Garlic Oil, which was a Thanksgiving gift from Rose-Anne)
Salt
Garlic powder

For layering:

15-ounce container of part-skim or fat-free ricotta cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese (the shredded type, not the little granules in the shakeable container)
Several handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
2 egg whites
26-ounce jar of your favorite marinara sauce
12 whole-wheat (or regular) lasagna noodles
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp. or more of fresh basil, chiffonaded

For the roasting step:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice vegetables, and then place them on pans that have been covered with aluminum oil and sprayed with cooking spray, making sure that they are in a single layer. Brush the vegetables with several tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with salt and garlic powder to taste. Place in oven and roast them for 30 min.

To assemble the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, and egg whites. Spread about 1/4 cup marinara sauce onto the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish. Layer with four lasagna noodles, half of the ricotta cheese mixture, half of the vegetables, one third of the marinara sauce, and one third of the mozzarella cheese. Top with handfuls of spinach leaves and basil. Repeat layers , topping with the remaining noodles and marinara sauce. Don’t forget to save sufficient sauce for the top of the lasagna. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 min. and then remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Daphna’s Garlic Bread

One large loaf of grocery-store French bread (we get the packages that have two smaller loaves and use three halves)
1 stick (1/2 cup) of salted butter at room temperature
6 medium to large garlic cloves, very finely minced or pressed with a garlic press (the latter option makes this task a little easier)
1 tsp. dried parsley
¼ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the butter, garlic, and herbs. Slice the garlic bread lengthwise into long half-pieces. Spread the butter mixture thickly on the bread and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Broil for 1-2 minutes, watching the bread closely to prevent burning. Enjoy!

2 comments:

daphna said...

Oh fun, you posted my recipes! I haven't been online much because I've been studying for my class during nearly all of my nonworking hours. I'm looking forward to being done!

Rosiecat said...

Ooh, Daphna, it sounds like you are being a very diligent student these days. Excellent! Good luck with the rest of your summer class.

I'm looking forward to our next cooking party!